'Culture of Safety’ best defence against sharps injury

March 25, 2014

Various pieces of research have shown that needlestick injuries are still a massive concern for those working in the healthcare sectors around the world, with many leading bodies combining efforts to reduce the incidents.

Now one expert has said that encouraging a 'Culture of Safety', something highlighted in the recent European Needlestick Directive, is the best way to reduce the number of needlestick incidents.

Dr. Joseph F Sobanko, a Mohs and reconstructive surgeon and director of dermatologic surgery education at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, highlighted that all healthcare employees are at risk of sharps injury, which could see them contract an illness through bloodborne pathogens.

Speaking at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology, Dr Sobanko explained that inexperienced workers are most at risk, reports Skin and Allergy News.

He added that when trainees and students get a sharps injury, it puts them at risk of repeating the event, which could be down to inadequate training of needlestick injury prevention and safe practice.

"Other studies have found that needlestick injuries commonly occur during device use and after device use during disposal," Dr Sobanko noted.

Most occupational exposures are self-inflicted, and most sharps injuries tend to affect the left hand and digits, he continued.

Dr Sobanko emphasised that there are key times during procedures where healthcare workers are most at risk. When suturing, for example, workers are at risk of puncturing their nondominant hand. However, when they are passing medical sharps, it is their dominant hand that is most at risk of sharps injury.
He added that this supports the initiative of introducing "surgical neutral zones" to transfer  instruments and "eliminate this particular form of injury".

Shortcuts, lack of focus, and inadequate training and all contributing to these incidents, which are avoidable, according to Dr Sobanko, and "fostering a culture of safety" could help reduce the risk of medical sharp injuries.

Dr. Sobanko said a safe needle device must be "easy to use" and one that "requires minimal effort to activate by the user", to further reduce injuries.

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